February 24, 2017 — The following is an excerpt from a story published yesterday by the Washington Post:
The White House on Friday will move its Council on Environmental Quality out of its main headquarters at 722 Jackson Place, a red brick townhouse it has occupied since it was established nearly half a century ago.
Although some White House CEQ staffers will remain in adjoining townhouses, the shift means the council will lose its main conference room. While the influence of CEQ waxes and wanes depending on which president is in office, it traditionally plays a key role in executing the White House’s overall environmental agenda and coordinating key decisions among different agencies.
The number of staffers also varies widely at different times, and includes employees detailed from other agencies. Shortly after being established under Richard Nixon, it had 54 staffers: its first chair, the late Russell Train, recalled in an oral history interview with Bates College that it had the same number of employees as the Council of Economic Advisers “and I was told we couldn’t have any more than they did.” At the end of former president Barack Obama’s term, the number of career staffers was about 15 out of the roughly 50-person staff, and earlier in his term the total staff reached 60 employees.
Under several administrations, including Obama’s, Clinton’s and Nixon’s, the council has steered federal decision-making in a more environmentally-friendly direction. “We really put the environmental impact process into effect and was able to bring the various agencies somewhat to heel who didn’t want to comply,” Train recalled in the 1999 Bates interview.